Summary

A year of bones, of grave-dirt, relentless work. Of mummified corpses and chanting priests. A year of rape, suicide, sudden death. Of friendship too. Of desire. Of love.... A year unlike any other he has lived.
Deep in the heart of Paris, its oldest cemetery is, by 1785, overflowing, tainting the very breath of those who live nearby. Into their midst comes Jean-Baptiste Baratte, a young, provincial engineer charged by the king with demolishing it.
At first Baratte sees this as a chance to clear the burden of history, a fitting task for a modern man of reason. But before long, he begins to suspect that the destruction of the cemetery might be a prelude to his own.
©2012 Andrew Miller (P)2012 Hodder & Stoughton
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Kaggy on 27-10-14

Pure Perfection

I bought this book ages ago and then allowed it to languish while I read some of my more 'flashy' titles. Now I have finally got around to giving this a listen I can't believe this took me so long.
This is a vivid account of a Paris filled with physical and moral corruption. Jean Baptiste is an idealistic young engineer from the North charged with clearing a cemetery so overcrowded that bones are exposed to the air and scattered around the grounds. He lodges with a family who live so close to the cemetery that their breath and food is tainted by their environment. The natural assumption is that Jean Baptiste would be applauded for the work he is conducting, but this is not the case, and he meets resistance from all sorts of strange and mysterious sources.
The details in this story are fascinating. From the food people ate, to the clothes they wore and their daily routines. Some of it was strangely moving. For example when Jean Baptiste retires for the night to face a long and lonely evening in his own company, I felt saddened that such a wonderful young man is forced to live like that. The central love story is unconventional to say the least, and the courtship scenes are played out with tremendous humour.
This is one of those books that gives an enriching insight into history and I know I will go back to it again and again. Jonathan Aris delivers an outstanding performance and I am now looking for other books where he is the narrator. If I could give this higher than 5 stars, I certainly would.

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5 of 5 people found this review helpful

4 out of 5 stars
By Natalie on 20-06-13

A great glimpse of pre-revolutionary France

I really enjoyed this book. The whole atmosphere was very true to the period. It was well-written and despite continually filling me with a slight sense of dread, I liked it! I finished it a couple of weeks ago and to my surprise have found myself missing it. It somehow gets to you.

I thought the read was quite good. Not outstanding but definitely didn't detract from the story.

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3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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